Today is Ash Wednesday, a day that begins the season of Lent for Christians. There are 40 days (minus Sundays) until Easter, and the season of Lent is a time for Christians everywhere to prepare themselves to celebrate that glorious day. Tonight, I will observe the beginning of the Lent season with my congregation by administering (and receiving) ashes on our foreheads.
Tonight, my congregation will be reminded that the Lent season is all about preparing for Easter through repentance and renewal. We will be reminded of our sin, and we will be called upon to repent. In our service tonight, we will sing together, we will recite Scripture together, we will pray together, and we will receive a cross of ashes on our foreheads. The ash will serve as a reminder of the biblical principle from Genesis 3:19 which says, “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” And because we are dust, and because to dust we shall return, repentance and renewal is essential. We will be reminded again tonight that full and complete reliance upon our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is essential.
The practice of placing ashes on the forehead has its roots in the Old Testament (book of Ezekiel) when an angel of the Lord was told to “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” Tonight will be a night when we will be reminded of our sin (reminded to sigh and groan over it), and then encouraged to begin a time of remembrance and thanksgiving for the work of Christ on the cross when He – once and for all – forgave us of our sins and cleansed us from all of our unrighteousness.
Lent is to be marked by discipline and fasting with the goal of death to sin, but our eyes must not stay down. They must look ahead to Easter, a day when the fasting comes to end…a day of unbridled laughter and celebration. A day when all creation rejoices and marvels at the gift from God: our Savior, Lord, and King, Jesus Christ.